S'pore businesses get more help to go 'green'

update Country's National Environment Agency unveils new US$355,000 grant to help firms engage in projects to the United Nations' Clean Development Mechanism.

update SINGAPORE--Companies in the island-state now have a new grant worth S$500,000 (US$355,750) to tap on for consultancy services relating to energy efficiency or fuel switching projects.

Launched Thursday, the National Environment Agency's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Documentation Grant will go toward helping businesses engage carbon consultancy services to develop documentation for CDM projects. The CDM is an initiative under the Kyoto Protocol that allows companies to earn tradable credits issued by the United Nations (U.N.) for projects that demonstrate the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The grant provides co-funding of up to S$100,000 for each project. As part of the eligibility criteria, the proposed CDM projects must be developed by a Singapore-registered enterprise and take place in the country.

What it takes to develop a 'zero energy building'

Work is in progress for Singapore's first "zero energy building" (ZEB)--the Building and Construction Authority Academy--with the project due for completion in September 2009.
This was shared by Professor Lee Siew Eang, director of the Centre for Total Building Performance at the National University of Singapore (NUS), at the Schneider Electric Inspiration 2008 energy efficiency symposium Thursday.
According to Lee, a ZEB is a building that has a net energy consumption of zero over a typical year, producing as much energy as it consumes.
To achieve this, developers must:
first determine optimal consumption levels--operating with the "minimum" but without compromising comfort and safety;
optimize renewal energy production and sourcing test-bedding partners to lower costs and introduce new technology to the local market;
instill reporting mechanisms for management and control
educate and obtain user buy-in, seek user feedback and continue to improve
In the pipeline are other projects such as a zero energy home, zero energy carpark and a zero energy hostel for NUS, he said.

Amy Khor, senior parliamentary secretary for Singapore's Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, said Thursday that the cost of developing the documentation required by the U.N. is a barrier to the development of CDM projects. "This documentation is necessary to ensure that the appropriate methodology, analysis and measurements are carried out to calculate and verify the greenhouse gas emission reductions by the project.

"Depending on its scale and complexity, the cost of developing the documentation generally ranges between S$50,000 (US$35,575) to S$200,000 (US$142,300)," she added.

Khor, who was speaking at an energy efficient symposium in the island-state by Schneider Electric, noted that figures from the International Emissions Trading Association showed that over US$10 billion worth of U.N.-issued Certified Emissions Reductions were traded last year, with about 40 percent of these derived from efficiency and fuel switching projects.

Citing U.N. statistics, she added that CDM projects can potentially achieve worldwide carbon emission reductions of over a billion tons by 2012.

Energy efficiency has been identified by Singapore as one of the key strategies to address rising fuel costs and environmental concerns, Khor pointed out, adding that the NEA has a number of schemes to help businesses in this area.

One such initiative--the Energy Efficiency Improvement Assistance Scheme--has helped fund 113 detailed assessments in large buildings and industrial facilities and helped companies identify annual energy savings in excess of S$28 million (US$19.9 million).

Room for improvement in Southeast Asia
Energy-efficient measures can bring about significant cost-saving opportunities, noted Khor, but "these are not being realized sufficiently".

Richie Lee, director for energy efficiency at Schneider Electric, told ZDNet Asia that about 90 percent of the company's Southeast Asia-based customers in the commercial and industrial markets have not carried out any major energy efficiency initiatives, such as performing a thorough energy audit. That, he added, was "a good indicator that there's much room for improvement".

Lee noted that the seemingly low take-up is largely due to a lack of awareness. Another factor could be the lack of readily available equipment in the past, as afterall, the concept and practice of energy efficiency only emerged more strongly over the last couple of years.

Alex Khoo, Schneider Electric's senior vice president for Southeast Asia, pointed out that it is not enough for companies to practise passive energy efficiency, such as performing audits, benchmarking or buying low-power devices. Active energy efficiency, which can be achieved through automation of monitoring and control, and maintenance, is also necessary.

"You can buy the most efficient equipment or system, but if you don't maintain it, it will rot," he said.